McConnell on Pandemic Relief Deal: ‘We Are Very, Very Far Apart’

October 1, 2020 Updated: October 1, 2020

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said it appears unlikely another COVID-19 relief deal will be reached in the near future, saying that Republicans and Democrats are “very far part” on spending.

“I think it’s safe to say we’re far apart,” McConnell told reporters Wednesday as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin met to make a deal. “We are very, very far apart,” he added.

Mnuchin and Pelosi have both expressed optimism this week about the prospect of coming to a new deal.

This week, House Democrats unveiled their $2.2 trillion update to the HEROES Act, which House Republicans said they would not support. Pelosi on Wednesday indicated that she will delay a vote on the bill to a later date as she and Mnuchin hold talks.

McConnell also suggested to reporters that the bill would not be passed in the GOP-controlled Senate, saying the price was “outlandish.”

On Wednesday, following the talks, Pelosi stated: “Today, Secretary Mnuchin and I had an extensive conversation and we found areas where we are seeking further clarification … our conversations will continue.”

“We will be proceeding with our vote tonight on the updated Heroes Act in order to formalize our proffer to Republicans in the negotiations to address the health and economic catastrophe in our country,” she said in a statement.

Nancy Pelosi and Steven Mnuchin
(L): Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) talks to reporters during her weekly news conference at the U.S. Capitol Visitors Center in Washington, on Sept. 18, 2020. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images; (R): )Steven T. Mnuchin, Secretary, Department of the Treasury during the Senate’s Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs hearing examining the quarterly CARES Act report to Congress in Washington, on Sept. 24, 2020. (Toni L. Sandys-Pool/Getty Images)

Pelosi and Mnuchin met for the first time in weeks. Talks between the two parties had hit a snag, with nearly $1 trillion in federal funding to states and cities being the most contentious issue. It led to accusations from both sides that the other party wasn’t serious about the negotiations.

“If there’s a fair compromise, we’re prepared to do it,” Mnuchin said, adding that the figure is “in the neighborhood” of $1.5 trillion.

House Democratic Conference Chairman Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) told reporters that a vote on the legislation was expected later on Sept. 30, but wouldn’t reflect on the success of the talks. “That is our current expectation,” said Jeffries, adding that the bill would show the Democratic caucus’ “vision on what’s right legislatively at this moment.”

The updated HEROES Act would include $600-per-week unemployment benefits, stimulus payments, small-business loans, and other measures.

The bills are designed to offset economic losses incurred from lockdowns during the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus pandemic.

Reuters contributed to this report.